Why Motor Skills Matter


“Play is our brain's favorite way of learning.” Diane Ackerman

By Ina Joshi, PT, DPT

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Muscle tone is the resistance a muscle has to passive stretch at rest. It is what helps us sit upright and maintain posture at rest. There are many cases where low muscle tone is associated with a diagnosis or disorder and may be referred to as hypotonia or as “floppy infant syndrome.”  Often, low muscle tone presents itself without any other diagnoses and there is no known cause.



Sometimes, an infant with low muscle tone will roll, sit, and creep (crawling on hands and knees) later than other babies, or they may skip creeping altogether.  These infants may also use compensatory movement patterns due to the low muscle tone, such as moving their joints to end range and “locking them out.” These patterns can lead to atypical postural alignment and prevent muscles from fully activating as they should. Proper alignment provides optimal muscle strength and joint health as a child grows.


An older child with low muscle tone may have a hard time sitting upright without support. Sometimes these children are working so hard to sit-up, they have trouble paying attention to what is going around them, including paying attention in school.  School aged children with low muscle tone may show poor posture with a large arch in the back and/or hyperextended knees.


A great way to help a child with low muscle tone is to keep them active and moving to improve their core and joint stability


  • Infant floor play- look for ideas in an upcoming post

  • Play at the playground - climbing, sliding, and swinging activate core and postural muscles

  • Animal walks - activate stability muscles in imaginative way

  • Children’s yoga  - great for body awareness and postural stability

  • Climbing, running, jumping, roller blading, swimming, dancing

Tara Liddle